Buying a Toyota Supra Mk4

With the impending launch of the new Toyota Supra (2018 Toyota Supra) we thought it would be a good idea to do a buyer’s guide for arguably the most famous Supra, the Mk4. The new Supra looks to be a real winner, but it was the Mk4 that sent the Supra name to the stratosphere.

For this buyer’s guide we are first going to run through a bit of history and specifications of the car, so if you already know about the history of the Mk4 feel free to skip on ahead.

The history & Specs of the Toyota Supra Mk4

Japan’s motor industry experienced a period of incredible success from the late eighties to the late nineties. It was a period of exciting, world beating cars that would go onto become one of the most memorable periods of motoring. Toyota’s rivals launched magnificent cars like the FD-series Mazda RX-7, the Nissan GT-R and the Honda NSX.

To keep in play with their competition Toyota decided that it was time to launch a new version of their Supra range. Following the end of the Mk3’s production in 1992, Toyota launched the Mk4 Supra at the 1993 Chicago Motor Show. This had been in development for four years by the time of launch, under the guidance of Toyota’s chief engineer, Isao Tsuzuki, who had also worked on both generations of the MR2 and the Celica.

The Mk4 Supra was a bold new move for Toyota and the car’s flowing design shared more in common with the 2000GT of the sixties than its predecessor. With its long, low bonnet and optional-high-rise spoiler the Mk4 Supra was aerodynamically efficient and oozed performance.

Compared to the outgoing car, the Mk4 Supra was shorter, lower and wider, while being 100kg lighter. The weight saving was down to Toyota using lighter materials and they even used hollow carpet fibres to save a few grams!

Powering the Mk4 was either a naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre JZ-series straight six engines that offered anywhere from 220bhp to 326bhp (Japanese manufactures at the time limited the horsepower of their cars to 276bhp). The top-spec turbo offerings were mated with Toyota’s first six-speed gearbox that meant the Supra could now offer supercar like performance.

In its turbocharged form the Supra could achieve 0-60mph in as little as 4.6 seconds and could hit nearly 180mph. Japanese models were limited to 112mph (180km/h), while export models could hit 155mph (250km/h) before the limiter stopped them going any further.

 

Rather than making the turbos operate in a parallel mode, Toyota designed them to be sequential. This resulted in boost and enhanced torque as early as 1,800rpm. At 3500 rpms some of the exhaust gases are sent through the second turbo for a “pre-boost” mode and at 4000rpm it kicks in properly.

While the turbocharged version of the car received the new V160 gearbox, the naturally aspirated versions had to make do with a five-speed manual W58 gearbox, which was revised from the previous car. Each model of the car was also offered with a four-speed automatic with a manual shifting mode.

With the Mk4 Supra, Toyota went to new lengths to save weight. They used aluminium for the bonnet, front cross member, the suspension upper A-arms, the oil and transmission pans, and the targa top (when that was fitted). Toyota also used hollow carpet fibres, a magnesium-alloy steering wheel and a whole host of other lightweight parts to shed any excess weight off the car.

By the late nineties, sales of sports coupes like the Toyota Supra were declining rapidly in North America. This meant that the car was withdrawn from the Canadian market in 1996 and the United States market 1998. Despite this, production of the Supra continued in Japan until August 2002 and was only stopped due to new restrictive emissions standards.

Toyota Supra JZ80 Specifications

Body: integrated body/chassis, steel and alloy composite two-door coupe
Engine: 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with overhead camshafts and fuel injection.
Power & Torque: 208kW @ 5600rpm, 427Nm @ 4000rpm (twin-turbo)
Performance: 0-100km/h 5.1 seconds, 0-400 metres 13.7 seconds (twin-turbo manual)
Transmission: five or six-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Suspension: Front: upper & lower wishbones with coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar Rear: upper & lower wishbones with coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar
Brakes: disc front, disc rear with ABS
Tyres: 235/17/45 ZR radial (front) 255/17/40 ZR radial (rear)

Buying a Toyota Supra Mk4

So now that we’ve gone over a bit of the history of the Toyota Supra, it is now time to get to why you really came here. Buying a Toyota Supra can be a bit of a daunting task. While the car is actually about as bullet proof as a sports car can get, there are some things to look out for. We have listed these below:

Steering and Suspension 

The Supra is a bit of a beast in this area. Toyota essentially over-engineered the suspension and the steering systems of the Supra. They are strong and durable, but a worn set of dampers can make a good looking Supra feel wobbly and baggy on the road.

A Supra that wanders or pulls to one side may merely have tyres that are inflated to the wrong pressure, or it could mean that the suspension is damaged or worn. Check the tyres for any inconsistent wear patterns and check for any rumbling wheel bearings or clunks from worn out bushes.

Cars manufactured after 1994 have improved four-piston brake calipers, however the rotors can still wear out after 40,000km. Another thing to check for is that the ABS system is working as it should. Any problems with this should set off alarm bells in your head.

Depending on which part of the world you live, prices can vary dramatically. Make sure you get a drive of the car to see how it feels and check that the car returns rather than bounces when you push down on it. Many Toyota Supras will come with aftermarket shocks, however this can make the ride more uncomfortable if they are stiffer and effects the originality of the car.

The Supra is getting on a bit now, so many of the suspension elements may be worn. If you are looking at a car with worn suspension you might want to way up the cost of replacing it or holding out for a prime model.

Engine 

While the engine of the Supra is about as bulletproof as they come, a poorly maintained car will always have problems. Export models were fitted with more durable turbochargers as they had to handle more power compared to Japanese models. If you are looking at a new turbo they can come in at a hefty cost, especially if you add maintenance on top.

If you are looking at a turbo model and it feels a bit down on power, it could be a sign that the turbo is on its way out. Also check for any smoke from the exhaust, which can mean that anything from the seals have gone to a cracked turbo housing. This can give off a blue/grey smoke, which may become more apparent if you rev the engine.

Another tip is to check for ant boost losses and do a compression test of the turbo if possible. While the Supra’s engine is tough, many owners turn up the boost which can lead to increased wear, especially on import models.

Smoke can also come from other parts of the engine as well, like a blown head gasket. A blown head gasket can cause white smoke from the exhaust, coolant leaking from the exhaust manifold, an overheating engine and white milky oil.

A well maintained Supra engine will last a lifetime if kept in good order so make sure you check that the previous owner has serviced the car regularly. Also check for any receipts or payments for any previous work done by other owners.

Transmission 

Both the manual and automatic gearboxes made for the Supra are pretty under stressed, however the six-speed version on the turbo-car is undoubtedly the strongest. It was made by Getrag specifically for the car and can take up to 1000hp without any work whatsoever.

There is not much to worry about here, but if you can drive the car it will let you feel how the gearbox is.

Some of the things to watch out for when it comes to transmissions is any odd sounds, delays in movement or strange smells. If the Supra you are looking at is a manual and has grinding noise or feel when you shift, it could be a number of issues. This could mean a worn clutch (if you have the clutch fully engaged and it still makes a grinding noise) or it could mean the transmission gear synchronizers may be on their way out.

The Supra’s manual transmission is typically somewhat noisy and clunky, so don’t be alarmed if you find this when testing one. If the clutch is slipping or the car is shuddering it could indicate a $2000 repair bill is near.

Automatic gearboxes are slightly different. With an auto you will most likely feel the car shimmy into each gear, instead of shifting smoothly. You may also hear a whining, humming or buzzing sound.

Differential 

The Supra Mk4’s differential is enormously strong and can handle up to twice the normal power output of the car without completely failing. Depending on where you live, replacement parts may cost anywhere from $600 to over $1,000.

You may hear a clonk when shifting from reverse into first. This was normal even when the cars where new, but if you hear any whining under load that’s when you have trouble.

Bodywork 

As with any car, the bodywork condition will be largely down to how the car has been treated and who has been driving it. Check that it is straight and examine the paintwork to see if it has been repaired at any time. You can sometimes see where new paint is slightly different to the originally. If it has a large portion repainted it could be a sign that it has been in a collision at some point.

Rust is not much of a problem on the Toyota Supra, but make sure you check the base of the tailgate, just below the rear window. Also check around the wheel arches and windows as these can be areas prone to rust.

If you need any new panels it can be cheaper to go to a specialist rather than an official dealer. Another tip is to check where the car has come from, if it has come from a place near the sea or where they salt the roads it may be more prone to rust.

Some Toyota Supra cars were fitted with Targa style roof panels, so make sure you remove it to check that the seals are in good working order. Additionally, press down on the boot (hatch) to check for any water leaks or worn buffer rubbers. If the boot struts are shot, they are not too expensive to replace, however any rusting from water leaks around that area could be an expensive fix.

Another thing to check is for any cracks or damage to the body kit, especially under the nose of the car. A large number of cars were fitted with aftermarket body kits, so make sure they fit correctly and are not loose.

Electronics and the Interior

 

Old electronics can be a nightmare and the Toyota Supra Mk4 is certainly no spring chicken anymore. Check to make sure each switch does what it should during a test drive, this will save you headaches down the road.

Another thing to check is that the air-conditioning and the heater give off colder and warmer air within about a minute of being turned on. Ensuring that that the ABS light comes on with ignition and that it turns off when the engine starts is very important.

Interior wise check that the seats are in good order and the general trim. Wear on the leather seat bolsters is common and can be fixed easily. Check that the gear shifter knob and the steering wheel for wear as they can be a good indicator of how far the car has travelled (if the odometer has been wound back) Also check for any rattles, especially from the dashboard. These can be signs that the car has been neglected.

Other tips

Also view a car in the dry if possible. The rain can hide a whole host of problems with the car and if you do have to view it in the rain, try to go back for a second viewing when the sun is shining. If you can view the car in person that is certainly a bonus, however, the Toyota Supra is starting to become a rare car so it may not be possible, especially if you are importing it from overseas.

As the Supra is starting to get a bit long in the tooth it may be hard to find a low mileage car in good condition. A car with low K’s in good condition will fetch a premium so if you are on a budget you may want to check out some cars that have gone a bit further. If the car has been well maintained, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the distance it has travelled.

When buying a car check for any service records for the Supra. This is not only a great way to check that the car has been well maintained, but will also be extremely useful if you want to sell the car in the future. The service records will also give you a rough estimate of what it will cost to run a Supra.

Where to buy a Toyota Supra Mk4

The Toyota Supra Mk4 is fast becoming a classic and they are starting to become a little bit more difficult to find, especially if you are looking for one in good condition or not modified. There are a few different options you can go down when looking to buy a Supra Mk4 and we are going to cover them here.

Find a Supra domestically or in your local area

The first option is to obviously look in your own market or country. This is a great option; however, you may find that there are only a few cars (even less that are worth your time) on the market or that they are very expensive.

The price and availability the Supra will entirely depend on where you live and the current market there. We just had a quick look at our local market in New Zealand and only found automatic or modified Supras that looked a bit past it (at the time of writing).

If you are in no rush to buy a Toyota Supra a good option is to wait and see what comes up over a period of six to twelve months, this will also give you a gauge of what your market is like.

A benefit of buying a Toyota Supra that is already in your market is that you can possibly go and view/drive it much easier. You also don’t have to muck around with importing one and the costs that it entails.

Below we have given you a few examples of where to look for a Supra in your local area:

  • Car dealer – You are pretty lucky to find a good Supra that doesn’t cost the world at a car dealer, however it is still an option to look out for.
  • Internet – Websites like eBay and Trademe (NZ website) are excellent places to find cars. They are also great places to work out what sort of price range you might be looking at in your local area. You might also have luck with websites such as Reddit and its subreddits or other forums where cars like the Supra are discussed. Many people who own cars like the Toyota Supra will go on these forums to discuss their cars and they may be able to point you in the right direction.
  • Owners club – A Toyota owners club or one specific for the Supra is great place to find one. These cars are often well maintained as their owners are usually enthusiasts who take pride in their machines. Most owner’s clubs will have an online presence (website, Facebook page, etc.)
  • Facebook groups – Facebook groups relating to the Toyota Supra like this one are great ways to find out if there are any cars available. Bigger buy/sell car groups are also good as well, but just remember that there is a lot if rubbish that gets posted in these groups as well.
  • Contacts – Easy one we know, but sometimes you or a friend may know someone who is selling a Supra.

Import a Toyota Supra Mk4

 

 

If you are struggling to find a suitable Toyota Supra in your country or local area, you might want to look at importing one. The most common country to import a Toyota Supra from is of course Japan, the car’s home.

While Japanese law makes owning older cars expensive, there are still plenty of Toyota Supras to be found there. Japan has a large car enthusiast scene so you will be able to find anything from an original model to a modified monster. Below we have given some tips on importing a Toyota Supra from Japan:

The internet is your friend

One of the best ways to import a Toyota Supra from japan is to look online. There is a vast array of websites that sell Japanese cars and you will be able to find plenty of different cars on them. The websites will also provide you with the best price options and you will be able to select the best Supra based on your available funds.

While the web is a great place to buy a Toyota Supra, you still need to be careful. Before you even think about buying from a website or exporter, check them out and see if they are a reputable company.

Here are eight websites to get you started:

What to look out for when importing a Supra from Japan

Importing a Supra from Japan is certainly a bit riskier than finding one domestically. Dealers will often get the best pick of cars from Japan since they are always in contact with their agents in the country, however, you can still find good cars.

Almost every company in Japan gets their cars the same way. The difference between them is how they have been serviced and how much information the company selling the Supra will tell you. Watch out for a company or website that will not give you or translate the auction check sheet as this can be a sign they want to hide something from you.

2002 Toyota Supra RZ-S auction check sheet

Japanese car auction houses and companies will grade their cars based on the condition of them. The purpose of this is to give you a quick idea of the general condition of the car. There may be a range of different quality levels within each grade, so a car that is grade 4 may almost be a grade 4.5 in quality, or it may be a 3.5. Use the grading system to narrow down the field of Supras and then use the auction sheet to determine the best one for you.

You will usually be provided with two grades: one for the overall condition of the exterior and mechanical parts of the car (usually a number), and one based on the interior condition (usually a letter). Different auctions and websites will have slightly different grading systems and methods; however, they are all broadly similar.

Things of notice on a check sheet

A quick rundown on the different grades

Grade 7 to 9 or S – new car with only delivery mileage

Grade 6 – similar to the cars above, but with a few more miles on them

Grade 5 – car in exceptional condition with low mileage

Grade 4.5 – Excellent condition, but with mileage up to 100k

Grade 4 – good condition. Could be high or low mileage

Grade 3.5 – similar to grade 4, but may need some work. These could also have high mileage

Grade 3 – usually has either serious paint or panel problems or it has had panels repaired at some point. Can also be grade 3.5 condition, but with much higher mileage.

Grade 2 – worst condition you can buy. They are not necessarily write offs, but are in very poor condition. You might find significant rust or mechanical problems with the car. Many older or classic cars are classed as grade 2. Just remember “buyer beware” if you are looking at a grade 2 Toyota Supra

Grade 1 – modified in some way (could be after-market turbo or transmission change)

Grade 0, A, R, RA – Repair history. This might range from a minor repair to a major one.

Exterior and interior grading of Japanese auctions

The exterior and interior of the Supra may also be graded by a letter rather than a number. A is for excellent, B is for average and C is for below average. You can also check the car map to see any other details for the interior and exterior grade.  

Know the law when importing a Toyota Supra

Different countries have different laws when it comes to importing a car. Make sure you check the import laws in your country before you buy a Supra as you may find you are not even allowed to bring the car in. Some countries have laws that restrict importation to cars of a certain age or manufacture time.

Take a trip to Japan

Another way to find a Supra is to go to Japan and find one when you are in the country. This is obviously going to add extra cost; however, you can have a holiday at the same time. One thing to remember though is that if you don’t speak the language (or don’t have somebody to translate) you are going to have a whole lot of trouble.

If you are not confident get a dealer to import one

If you are not feeling confident importing a Toyota Supra on your own you can also get a dealer to import one on your behalf. There are usually loads of local importers and dealers in your location who can do this and have plenty of experience. This is going to add extra cost, but may be a safer way to import a Supra.

Import from other countries

While Japan is undoubtedly the best place to import a Toyota Supra from, you may find that other countries have what you need. There is less information on this, but it is another option for you to buy a Supra.

Wrapping up

The Toyota Supra Mk4 is one of the most iconic Japanese cars of all time. It has a legendary status and oozes street cred, but finding a good example is becoming more and more difficult. Whether you import a Toyota Supra or buy one domestically, always check the cars condition and take your time.

This is just a quick buyer guide and history of the Toyota Supra Mk4, and there is plenty more information out there. Importing or buying a Toyota Supra for cheap is starting to become a lot more difficult, but the information should get you up to speed on everything you need to know.

Now read: 

Buying a Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R 

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